Monday, June 15, 2009

What's at Stake

Although Le Devoir is reporting that Michael Ignatieff will support the government and not send this country to an election, in case those sources are wrong here is a look at what each party has to gain or to lose with an election on July 27.

UPDATE: Turns out Ignatieff has some demands which must be met, and it seems unlikely Harper would meet them. Either someone will blink and there won't be an election, or this time next week we're on the campaign trail.

UPDATE UPDATE: Harper responds and looks unlikely to make concessions. The pot begins to boil.


Situation: The Conservatives are down in the polls virtually everywhere. Nationally, they've lost anywhere from 7% to 20% of their 2008 electoral support. They're down almost 10 points in Ontario, have lost almost half of their support in Quebec, and some polls even put the party in second place in British Columbia.

Potential Gains: None. They appear to be treading water only in Atlantic Canada and Alberta, and its likely that every province will see a reduction in Tory support and seats.

Potential Losses: It is impossible to foresee a scenario like the last election, as Ignatieff and the Liberals are far more secure than they were under Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton doesn't look to be able to eat away any of the Liberal votes. In a best-case scenario, Stephen Harper could hold on to power but with a greatly reduced minority, and he would likely be in a position where the NDP and Liberals alone could out-vote him. In a worst-case scenario, the Tories would lose power and could even dip below 100 seats.


Situation: The Liberals have opened up a beyond-statistical lead over the Conservatives nationally, increasing their support by anywhere from 26% to 42% of their 2008 electoral result. They are up in the polls in every region of the country, and most importantly have a significant lead over the Tories in Ontario and are within striking distance of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec.

Potential Gains: A best-case scenario would make Ignatieff the country's next Prime Minister. With the polling results we've seen, the Liberals could increase their current caucus by 50 or 60 MPs, putting them in the 130-140 range and probably outside of the voting power of the Conservatives and NDP. More likely is a modest Liberal minority. A worst-case scenario would still see the Liberals increase their caucus by 30 seats or so and put them above the respectable 100-seat level.

Potential Losses: None, at least numbers-wise. The Liberals are virtually guaranteed to increase their support levels and seat totals. What they could lose, however, is the opportunity to form government. The numbers still make a Tory minority possible. That would result in a lost time for Ignatieff. The Tories would be safe for another few years because of election weariness, and the political momentum and capital of the current Liberal tide would be sapped.


Situation: The Bloc is down slightly in the polls, but not significantly. The polls have shown everything from a 13% loss to a 5% increase over 2008's electoral result. More significant is that the Liberals have placed ahead of the Bloc in several polls.

Potential Gains: What is almost assured is that the Bloc will return to some of the regions of Quebec where the Tories have made gains. This means the Beauce, around Quebec City, and in the Saguenay. These are more traditionally Bloc regions, and it would be an important victory to return to these regions. In a best-case scenario, the Bloc could even increase its caucus in an election by anywhere from one to four seats. A worst-case scenario would still see a return to Quebec City and the Saguenay.

Potential Losses: The Liberals will make some major gains in the province, which means the Bloc could lose some of its seats in Montreal and south of the St. Lawrence. The Liberals could even take a foothold in Quebec City. The Bloc is assured to lose some seats to the Liberals, the only question is whether those can be made up by seat gains over the Tories. In a worst-case scenario the Bloc risks dipping to historic lows in popular support, and could even lose a tenth of its caucus or more. In a best-case scenario, the Bloc would still be pushed out of some of the regions in which it would like to remain: central Montreal, the Outaouais, and the Cantons-de-l'Est.


Situation: The NDP has sunk in the polls, losing between 7% and 34% of its 2008 support. The NDP is stagnant in the West but has lost important support in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada.

Potential Gains: None. While the NDP can always pull out an upset or two in individual ridings, it is extremely unlikely that the NDP would gain seats or even support in any region of the country.

Potential Losses: The NDP risks losing half of its caucus. The NDP currently has a very respectable 37 MPs, but they would be lucky to get out of an election with more than 20. The NDP is currently a pan-Canadian party, with seats in every region. But even in a best-case scenario, say 17% nationally, the NDP could lose its footholds in Alberta and Quebec. The latter loss would be especially significant. A worst-case scenario would see half of the NDP caucus disappear and Layton reduced to somewhere between 15 and 20 seats. That would be disastrous for a party that has made major strides in the last few elections. From this perspective, the NDP have the most to lose in an election, as though the Tories could lose government, it doesn't look like they can keep it for long anyway. With strong parties on the centre-right and centre-left, Canada is likely to see alternating governments for as long as those two parties remain whole. But for the NDP to return to virtual insignificance would be a tremendous blow.


The Greens are polling relatively well, and would likely increase their national vote level to 8% or 9%. A seat victory is unlikely, but Elizabeth May could pull out a victory in Central Nova if Peter MacKay steps aside, as has been rumoured. Of course, with no real results from the 2008 election, the Greens could stand to lose some support. In any case, the Greens only make themselves relevant during an electoral campaign, so any election for them is a positive.